By Dade Hayes
The New York Film Festival has finalized its main slate of 25 films and expanded the dates of this year’s event in order to accommodate drive-in screenings.
The 58th edition of the festival will start a week earlier than it had planned, on September 17, and run through October 11. Drawing from 19 countries, the slate includes Gianfranco Rosi’s Notturno, Frederick Wiseman’s City Hall; Sam Pollard’s MLK/FBI, Garrett Bradley’s Time, Victor Kossakovsky’s Gunda, Jia Zhangke’s Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue, and Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw’s The Truffle Hunters.
Hong Sangsoo will have his 15th film screen at NYFF, The Woman Who Ran. Other returning filmmakers include Rosi, Jia and Pollard as well as Christian Petzold, Song Fang, Eugène Green, Cristi Puiu, Matías Piñeiro, Tsai Ming-liang, Philippe Garrel and Chloé Zhao.
The festival previously announced Steve McQueen’s Lovers Rock as the Opening Night film Zhao’s Nomadland is Centerpiece, and Azazel Jacobs’s French Exit as the closer. Two other films from McQueen’s Small Axe anthology—Mangrove and Red, White and Blue—will also screen in the main slate. The anthology will reach U.S. audiences via Amazon Prime Video, marking the second straight year that New York will open its festival with a streaming title, after last year’s kickoff by Netflix’s The Irishman.
With COVID-19 concerns keeping indoor movie theaters closed in New York state at least through September, organizers have shifted to screenings held either online or at outdoor locations in the city. They have not yet announced the full schedule or confirmed which films will screen at drive-ins or online. At 25 films, the main slate is comparable in size to last year’s offering of 29 titles in the main draw.
“The disorientation and uncertainty of this tough year had the effect of returning us to core principles,” said Dennis Lim, director of programming for NYFF. “To put it simply, the main slate is our collective response to one central question: which films matter to us right now? Movies are neither made nor experienced in a vacuum, and while the works in our program predate the current moment of crisis, it’s striking to me just how many of them resonate with our unsettled present, or represent a means of transcending it. It has been a joy and a privilege to work with a brilliant, tireless programming team—the newly composed selection committee and our new team of advisors—and we are truly excited for audiences to discover and discuss these films.”
A fixture on the fall cultural calendar in New York and for the global film world, the festival also has significance for awards season, though this year’s fest circuit carries a big asterix due to the pandemic. Cannes went by the boards in May, but Venice is persevering with plans for an in-person fest in a couple of weeks. Telluride scrapped this year’s edition, while Toronto is continuing with a dramatically scaled-down version of its festival aimed at local moviegoers, with critics, talent and the usual global stakeholders participating online.
In a nod to this year’s extraordinary circumstances, officials with New York, Venice, Toronto and Telluride released a joint statement in July pledging collaboration instead of competition. For this year, at least, the usual maneuvering to secure world premieres will be replaced by a shared focus on safety protocols, supporting filmmakers and serving audiences, they said.
New York’s main slate selection committee, chaired by Lim, also includes Eugene Hernandez, Florence Almozini, K. Austin Collins, and Rachel Rosen.
Here is the full main slate:
Opening Night – Lovers Rock, Dir. Steve McQueen
Centerpiece – Nomadland, Dir. Chloé Zhao
Closing Night – French Exit, Dir. Azazel Jacobs
Atarrabi and Mikelats, Dir. Eugène Green
Beginning, Dir. Dea Kulumbegashvili
The Calming, Dir. Song Fang
City Hall. Dir. Frederick Wiseman
Days, Dir. Tsai Ming-liang
The Disciple, Dir. Chaitanya Tamhane
Gunda, Dir. Victor Kossakovsky
I Carry You with Me (Te Llevo Conmigo), Dir. Heidi Ewing
Isabella, Dir. Matías Piñeiro
Malmkrog, Dir. Cristi Puiu
Mangrove, Dir. Steve McQueen
MLK/FBI, Dir. Sam Pollard
Night of the Kings (La Nuit des Rois), Dir. Philippe Lacôte
Notturno, Dir. Gianfranco Rosi
Red, White and Blue, Dir. Steve McQueen
The Salt of Tears (Le sel des larmes), Dir. Philippe Garrel
Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue, Dir. Jia Zhangke
Time, Dir. Garrett Bradley
Tragic Jungle (Selva Trágica), Dir. Yulene Olaizola
The Truffle Hunters, Dir. Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw
Undine, Dir. Christian Petzold
The Woman Who Ran, Dir. Hong Sangsoo